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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With one of the state’s largest investors and employers planning to fully pull out by 2025, the Senate is working on a new plan to retain businesses.
The City of Ardmore was hit with an economic earthquake on Thursday after Michelin notified employees it would cease operation in Oklahoma in two years.
“What we experienced in southern Oklahoma over the last week has been tragic. It is hard to imagine the economic ripple effect that will have throughout southern Oklahoma and through the state of Oklahoma,” stated Senator Jerry Alvord, R-Wilson.
On Tuesday, Sen. Alvord told the Senate Business Retention and Economic Development Committee that Michelin accounted for $400M in investments over the last 30 years.
“The community is still processing what that’s going to mean long term,” stated Ardmore Chamber of Commerce President, Bill Murphy.
Michelin says it will offer retention bonuses going forward to achieve a smooth transition for employees and customers. When staffing reductions begin in mid-2024, Michelin will offer a combination of early retirement, separation benefits and financial incentives for relocation support.
In the city’s conversations with Michelin, Murphy explained the reason for the plant’s closure. He said it’s due to the changing tire market and electric vehicle market.
“This is a global decision the corporation has made,” added Murphy. “This plant is no longer competitive in their global market.”
Senator Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond, is pointing the finger of blame at the state though.
“Somewhere along the line there was some sort of relationship breakdown with Michelin. If we would have been more intentional over the last 20, 30, 40 years, maybe we would have seen something that at least could have given us some sort of indicator that maybe there was some distress down there,” stated Sen. Thompson.
Sen. Thompson also stated she believes the disconnect in this relationship is the information being shared between the state and businesses is not cohesive and directed.
Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, echoed the same concern as he said there may be a political aspect controlling the data in labor force participation.
“I don’t think we’re top ten in labor force participation. We seem to be about 30th there,” stated Sen. Pugh.
Sen. Thompson believes the decision was purely business and a way to protect stakeholders, but feels as if the relationship between Michelin and the state could have been better.
“My role as a legislator, obviously, is controlling what the state can control. That is specific to things we have under our purview. Department of Commerce is one. State incentives is one. And so hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ve got some ideas the Senate has really been working on since since about March,” stated Sen. Thompson.
Sen. Thompson was asked to share details on what’s to come regarding incentives and the Department of Commerce, but she declined to divulge any further.
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-OKC, told KFOR he felt as if the committee meeting on Tuesday was productive.
A big question for the Pro Tem is which incentive programs the Senate can review, change, and where the state is at.
“Are we doing things that are antiquated, that are not seeing results? I’d like to see some metrics around where we’re spending our time and where the successes are,” said Pro Tem Treat.
The Pro Tem said his focus moving forward is on both retention and attracting new businesses to the state.
“You’ve got to have both doors open for business. You can’t focus on one and not the other,” said Pro Tem Treat.